The Latest: States can put pressure on federal tech probe

NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on states investigation of Big Tech (all times local):

12:25 p.m.

Two groups of state attorneys general are launching separate antitrust investigations into Facebook and Google.

Antitrust experts note that state authorities have stepped in before when it seemed federal enforcers weren’t doing much. The states opening their own investigations can increase pressure on the federal government to take action against the companies.

Jay Himes, an antitrust lawyer who used to run the antitrust bureau for the New York Attorney General, says “states see it as part of their role to fill a vacuum.” He says there is skepticism about what may result from the Justice Department’s investigation given the lack of cases the agency has brought. He notes criticisms that the Federal Trade Commission didn’t do more to force changes on Facebook when it fined the social media company $5 billion recently for privacy violations.

Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, says this is the beginning of a period of “state activism” in antitrust enforcement that is a “needed counterpoint to weak enforcement” under the Trump administration. She notes the antitrust probes of the tech companies as well as the states’ case against T-Mobile’s takeover of rival wireless carrier Sprint.

11:15 a.m.

A group that’s called for tougher enforcement of anti-monopoly laws says a new investigation of Facebook by state attorneys general is a major step forward.

The Open Markets Institute says the New York-led investigation could put more pressure on federal antitrust enforcers to protect consumers and competition.

New York’s Democratic Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday that a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general will look into whether Facebook’s actions have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices or increased the price of advertising.

Open Markets’ Sarah Miller says the leadership by state attorneys general after longtime federal inaction follows in the footsteps of an antitrust investigation into Microsoft two decades ago that led to changes in how the company operates. Miller’s group has also called for breaking up some major tech companies that it considers monopolies.

Facebook says it operates in a competitive environment and plans to work constructively with the attorneys general.


10:35 a.m.

Facebook says it plans to work constructively with state attorneys general who are launching an antitrust probe into the company.

Facebook’s Will Castleberry, a vice president of state and local policy, said in a statement Friday that the company welcomes a conversation with policymakers about the competitive environment in which it operates.

New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James announced the Facebook investigation Friday.

She says the probe would focus on Facebook’s dominance and potential anticompetitive conduct.

Castleberry says people have multiple choices for every one of the services Facebook provides.

He also says that if Facebook were to stop innovating, people could easily leave the platform.


8:55 a.m.

New York Attorney General Letitia James says a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general is investigating Facebook for alleged antitrust issues.

The Democrat said Friday the probe will look into whether Facebook’s actions endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices or increased the price of advertising.

Facebook had no immediate comment.

James said she is leading a coalition that includes the attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

The U.S. Justice Department announced in July that it was opening a sweeping antitrust investigation of Big Tech, though it did not name any specific companies. It said it was investigating whether online platforms have hurt competition, suppressed innovation or otherwise harmed consumers.

The House Judiciary Committee is also conducting an antitrust probe into Facebook, Amazon and Apple.

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